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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 117: Takano 48
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Previous chapter: Beam 100
It was actually a bit of a distance before they came to another door--a double door not unlike those for the apartments, but in a different, heavier, style. Tommy opened it, stepped forward--and froze. Beyond the door was a cacophony of mechanical noise and a very low level of light.
Lauren strode past her. “Now, this is interesting,” she said. “We seem to have found a utilities center. Air, water, electricity, temperature control--everything needed to maintain the environment. If we look around, we’ll probably find waste disposal. I wonder what they do with their waste?”
“Given everything we know,” Tommy answered, stepping cautiously into the room behind Lauren, “they probably have extremely sophisticated recycling systems.”
Lauren nodded. “That makes sense. Throw it in one of the bins marked ‘waste’ and it gets carted to a sorting center and re-used to make other products. Well, shall we camp here?”
“Here?” Tommy reacted. It hardly seemed like a comfortable campground.
“Why not here?” Lauren said. “We can be fairly sure no one lives here, it’s not likely to be a thoroughfare to somewhere else, the internal climate isn’t bad, and while the background noise is unusual it’s not deafening or anything. Mostly white noise.”
“Maybe,” Tommy answered, looking for a reason to go find a comfortable apartment. “But if anything does live here, it’s likely to be, well, maybe rats.”
Lauren made a dismissive noise with her mouth. “I wouldn’t worry about rats. They’ll be more afraid of us than we would be of them. What I do see is pipes and bars. We can work on your balance.”
“Yes, a critical part of your training. I can do a flip on a tightrope, although it took me a long time to be able to do that. I think we need to get you walking on these pipes, forward and backward. If we can accomplish that today, that will be a step forward.”
With a sigh, Tommy unburdened herself, then watched as Lauren selected a sturdy-looking pipe about five feet above the ground, put her hands on it, then leapt up into a handstand on the pipe and brought her feet down to invert into a standing position.
I hope she doesn’t expect me to do that, Tommy thought, and realized how ridiculous the thought was. She smiled.
Lauren was now crouching on the pipe and reaching down with one hand. “O.K.,” she said, “grab my hand and jump up.”
Yeah, right, jump up. I’ll fly to the ceiling while I’m at it. But she stepped over and took Lauren’s outstretched hand. Bending her knees slightly, she then leapt and felt Lauren’s strong arm pull her until her waist was alongside the pipe. Then Lauren stood, with a force that propelled Tommy above the pipe, and Lauren let go.
For just a moment Tommy panicked, but then she felt Lauren’s hands on her waist. “Find your footing,” Lauren said, and Tommy scrambled a bit with her feet until she hit something solid, and settled her weight on her legs.
“Good,” Lauren said. “We’re up.”
“It’s a long way down,” Tommy suggested.
“You’ve practiced falling and rolling, so if you slip you should be able to catch yourself.”
Tommy thought that small comfort, but nervously nodded in agreement. “So, what do I do now?”
Lauren backed away along the pipe. “You walk toward me,” she said. “Take it slow. We’ll speed up once you’ve got the feel.”
As Tommy walked toward Lauren’s reassuringly open arms, it struck her that she was like a toddler, learning to walk toward a parent. There was sense in that, though, as she really was learning to walk, in a different way than she had learned before.
“Don’t look at your feet,” Lauren said. “You know where your feet are, and you know where the pipe is. Just keep your feet moving to where the pipe has to be. It’s something of a lesson in faith: you know something you can’t see, and you act on what you know without seeing. Trust that the pipe is there, and put your foot on it.”
Tommy smiled and almost started laughing as she got the feel of walking on the pipe.
“Good--good--very good,” Lauren was saying. “O.K., now stop.” Tommy stopped, eyes now focused on Lauren. “Good. Take a step backwards.”
“Just one step. You know the pipe is there; you were just standing on it. Put one foot behind you on the pipe.”
Tommy set a foot on the pipe behind her.
“Good. Now the other foot. Another step.”
Tommy stepped back, slowly, and then unprompted she did so again. Backwards was slow, on some level terrifying, but Lauren was right: the pipe was there, and she knew where it was, and she knew where her foot was, so although it was unnerving she could fairly easily move backwards, one footstep at a time.
“O.K., forward again.”
They spent what may have been an hour walking forward and backward on the pipe. On one level it was dull, but at the same time frightening. Still, she was getting better at it, more comfortable, more sure of herself, of her footing, of her balance.
Finally Lauren jumped down, and said, “That’s good for today. You should jump down and practice your fall landing.
Tommy wasn’t sure she had ever come down from five feet before, but after a gulp and a deep breath she stepped off the pipe, hit the floor leaning forward, and went into a somewhat inelegant forward roll onto her back, unhurt.
“Well done,” Lauren said. “Now let’s figure out camp and dinner.”
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #397: Verser Challenges. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
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